World Bulletin / News Desk
Japan banned imports of Canadian wheat Friday after it was discovered that some of the grain was genetically modified.
The move has Canadian farmers worried because Canada is one of the world’s biggest wheat producers, selling about CAN$11 billion (US$8.3 billion) annually.
Japan alone buys CAN$500 million (US$379 million) a year from Alberta province, where the genetically modified wheat was found.
The situation came to light after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) made public Thursday that it had found a small amount of genetically modified wheat in Alberta.
Other crops like corn have been genetically modified to attain better yields and are widely distributed, but GMO (genetically modified organism) wheat is not used in commercial production because of consumer concerns. It is banned in most countries.
The discovery was enough for Japan to shut the door on Canadian wheat, and other countries may follow suit, hurting farmers.
“We just heard they [Japan] are temporarily suspending shipments, just to find out more information,” Alberta Wheat Commission chairman Kevin Bender said Friday. “We don’t know how long.”
This is the first time cultivated GMO wheat has been found in Canada. GMO wheat plants are genetically modified to resist Roundup, a weed killer. A few wild stalks had been found last year along an oil access road that had been treated with Roundup and survived.
But the CFIA said extensive testing of nearby fields of wheat as well as tests of wheat to be exported turned up no GMO.
Nevertheless, Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network expressed concern that “somewhere else, at another date, we could find plants with this genetically modified trait”.
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